Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — I am pleased to make a contribution on this issue and to put the government’s initiatives on the record. As members are aware, last week the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, along with the Premier, made a number of announcements, which essentially involved the single biggest boost to police numbers in this state’s history. The government will deliver 1966 additional front-line police over five years to make our streets and our communities safer. It is investing $561.3 million over five years to recruit, train and employ an additional 1700 front-line police.
The government is also investing $73.9 million to redeploy 200 police to the front line and $38.4 million to release 66 police officers from telephone answering services into front-line roles by consolidating in Ballarat a statewide rural emergency services dispatch centre. The government’s announcement has been warmly welcomed by the community and, of course by the police as well.
As an aside, I can testify that when I went through the announcement with the Surf Coast Shire councillors last Wednesday night in Torquay — one of those councillors just happens to be a member of Victoria Police — the response was overwhelmingly in support of it.
For the record it is important to go back to the basics, because a lot of the black-and-white facts get a bit muddled when we talk about police numbers, but they are there for all to see. I will refer to this government’s record. In 1999 we promised 800 additional police officers and we delivered 800; in 2002 we promised 600 additional police officers and we delivered 600; and in 2006 we promised an extra 350 police officers, and we will have delivered over 470. More than 5000 recruits have graduated from the police academy since Labor came to government. There are more police in Victoria than ever before, and we have increased our police-per-population ratio.
By the end of this term of government, police numbers will have grown by 22 per cent since 1999, which outstrips the population growth of around 16 per cent.
This government is not one that wants to interfere in operational matters when it comes to Victoria Police. We believe that operational matters and the allocation or location of police is a matter for Victoria Police. We believe that allocation and location of police should be based on factors such as crime and population growth rather than on trying to scaremonger, bolster people’s political stocks within the media and attract their traditional political allies.
However, when we talk about making sure that we have a safer community we are not just talking about police numbers. It is also about ensuring that our police are properly trained, adequately resourced and have workplaces that are safe, modern and efficient.
We also need to have police stations that can cater for ongoing growth in our communities.
On the subject of equipment we have made sure that many items of equipment have been provided to police in recent times. The police have 100 new vehicles, and we have seen the rollout of the new police divvy van fleet. I am sure many people would have seen reference to that in their local papers in recent times. New facial recognition technology has been installed in police stations, and the recently announced rollout of new integrated ballistic vests for police members will ensure that police members are provided with both superior protection in the field and greater practicality and comfort in carrying their equipment. Other equipment includes in-car radios and new forensic robots to speed up testing through automation.
That gives a quick indication of the sorts of things we have put in place to increase the effectiveness of our police force, but we have also invested a massive $450 million to rebuild or significantly refurbish almost 160 police stations across Victoria.
Ms Pulford interjected.
Ms TIERNEY — Many members in this chamber, even over the last four years that I have been here, will have often seen new police stations opened in towns in their electorates. Ms Pulford made a point just a moment ago, and the facts stack up. Of the 160 police stations that have been rebuilt or significantly refurbished, 126 are in country Victoria — that is 81 per cent. This government has invested quite heavily in making sure that we have the most up-to-date police facilities and that they are spread throughout the state.
However, this sort of investment has also been made in outer suburban growth areas, and there is a fairly impressive list when it comes to that investment. For example, new facilities have been built at Cranbourne at a cost of $6.2 million; at Diamond Creek, $6.9 million; at Hurstbridge, nearly $1 million; at Endeavour Hills, $4.1 million; at Yarra Junction, $1.3 million; at Fawkner, $14.12 million; at Wyndham North, $7 million; at Springvale, $9.7 million; and at the Pakenham Emergency Services Complex, $12 million, with police, the Country Fire Authority and State Emergency Services on the same site to meet the demands of population growth in Cardinia, which I understand is expected to rise to 78 000 by 2011. I could go on and talk about Carrum Downs and the Lilydale police station, but I do not think there is sufficient time to go through them all.
Government support has involved providing training, resources, police numbers, police stations and multi-use complex sites, but there was also an announcement made late last year of an additional $47 million boost for the new operational response unit, which is to provide an extra 120 police officers over and above the previous commitment of 350 that the government made just prior to the last election. That boost enabled the Chief Commissioner of Police, Simon Overland, to establish a new operational response unit. This unit is up and running. It is a specialist unit of highly trained Victoria Police officers who go into the streets across the state to carry out targeted operations. This unit will be the latest weapon for Victoria Police to use in its fight against street crime and to keep Victoria’s streets safe.
The unit is made up of police officers who are specifically recruited and trained to undertake targeted law enforcement operations.
The number of police in the unit is expected to grow to 200 members by the end of the year, which will significantly boost police capacity to crack down on assaults, the use of weapons and alcohol-related street crime.
The announcement of the new operational unit has not been met with support from all parts of the community. Unfortunately those opposite have already said they plan to sack the additional 120 police who will be employed by the unit. In a statement made last Wednesday the government announced not only a significant increase in police numbers but also a range of other infrastructure matters. One matter that has not received as much coverage as it should and that I know would be of interest to the wider community is an allocation of $22 million to employ 55 on-the-ground youth workers to introduce new behaviour change programs for young people who carry knives and to implement a supervised bail pilot project. Those youth workers will be working with young people to change their behaviour before they offend.
Obviously they will be working very closely with Victoria Police. This is part and parcel of the front-line strategy that Labor is putting in place.
At the time the statement was made last Wednesday the police minister said:
“These new police announced today are not an election promise — they will be written into the 2010 state budget.”
That happened yesterday.
He went on to say:
“The Brumby Labor government is determined to recruit more police, pass tough laws and work with the community to turn around alcohol-related crime and antisocial behaviour. “
The announcement was not only from the Minister for Police and Emergency Services and the Premier, but the Deputy Premier, who is also the Attorney-General, also made some announcements at the same time, which provided other aspects to the package. He announced $129.4 million to provide Victorians with greater and swifter access to justice, which included $62.3 million over five years to reduce delays in the Victorian court system. There was also an announcement of two additional trial judges in the County Court and two extra magistrates, including one for the Children’s Court. A number of other programs were mentioned: $4 million for the Magistrates Court to implement the government’s proposed personal safety intervention orders, which will replace the stalking intervention orders; $11.2 million for the Children’s Court to fund a new mediation pilot in child protection cases; and an additional $49.9 million over two years to Victoria Legal Aid to provide legal representation to underprivileged members of the community.
These are, by any measure, significant investments in our antisocial behaviour and judicial infrastructure and will take us forward into the future.
We have all of that, but on the other side we have a situation where those opposite, when they were in government on the last occasion, and when Mr Baillieu was president of the Liberal Party, promised 1000 additional police but cut their numbers by 800. Last year they promised that if re-elected they would appoint 940 protective services officers (PSOs) to work at train stations after dark. Then a month later they voted against a move to remove the current cap of 150 on the existing number of PSOs, making it illegal for the Chief Commissioner of Police to employ any more. Now they say they will recruit another 1600 police over the next four years, and they want the public to believe them. Leopards do not change their spots. No-one believes they will deliver what they are saying. Opposition members also say they are going to fund their proposals by cutting advertising expenditure.
I want to know what they are going to do to fund their national recruitment campaign that they say they are going to run to recruit police officers.
The other aspect I touched on initially in my opening remarks is that those opposite want to have it not just both ways but in a number of ways. They spray off in all directions in terms of where they think police officers should, would, can or will not be allocated or located. They have in the past claimed that they would not put specific numbers of police in certain electorates. Last week some said it would be left up to the Chief Commissioner of Police. Peter Ryan, the Leader of The Nationals in the other place, who is also the shadow Minister for Police and Emergency Services, was reported in the Bendigo Advertiser of 8 April 2010 as saying that the country would only get additional police after the city was first looked after. Others have said the country should be given more police. What they do not get is that politicians should not be deciding where police are placed. That decision should remain the domain of police command, based on operational need.
I put to the house today that this government has provided adequate and appropriate front-line policing. The announcement on Wednesday is welcomed by every quarter of the Victorian community. This government properly resources and provides training for its police force. It has put in a massive investment in work stations and police stations. It has also invested heavily in a support structure, whether it be youth workers, an increase in the number of magistrates in the judicial system, or the $14 million announced in yesterday’s budget that supports our plan to prevent domestic violence.
These are just a number of points that I wish to raise today in order, hopefully, to provide clarity in terms of what the facts are and what this government has delivered.
This government’s record is clear. It is committed to having a properly resourced police force, as opposed to the opposition’s complete lack of commitment and its record when it comes to Victoria Police. The only consistency from the opposition is its demonstrated constant meddling in operational matters which is generated by their need for political interference and political relevance. I urge members of this house to vote against this motion.